May 25, 2024
Search
Close this search box.
Search
Close this search box.
May 25, 2024
Search
Close this search box.

Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Putting My Feet Where My Mouth Is For Israel

I have been a very vocal supporter of Israel for as long as I can remember and lately, specifically, of the Lone Soldier Center in Memory of Michael Levin. That’s because my son Yoni is a lone soldier in the IDF. I usually put my money where my mouth is and sent personal donations as well as funds raised through a garage sale. But I needed to do more, so on Sunday, August 24, I put my feet where my mouth is and ran/walked my first 5K with the Run with Israel 5K in New York City.

I found out about it on Facebook a week before the event and did not think about what I was getting into. I just felt a pull on my heart from my son in the IDF and my other son, Zev, who was an intern at the Center this summer. I figured if I could do Zumba three times a week and walk to Bergenfield from “the other side of Teaneck” on a 90° Shabbos for a bar mitzvah, I could do 5K for Israel.

The previous Wednesday, I did a trial run/walk around Votee Park and lived to tell about it with only a minor blister and a sore hip, so I was primed, pumped, and ready by Sunday morning. The event started at 10:00 a.m. so I was well-rested, too.

The Run with Israel 5K is the brainchild of college students who sat helplessly reading their newsfeeds about the war and wanted to do something tangible. They had no fundraising experience, and had never organized such an event, but they pulled it together in less than three weeks. Sammy Apple of Scarsdale, NY, the principal organizer, used social media to get the word out, pulling together a team of random people.

Jillian Shapiro, one of the organizers from New Rochelle who now lives in Israel, joined the team with her twin sister Rachelle–they heard about it from Sammy on Facebook, thought it was a great idea, and signed on with a group of strangers. Three of the organizers hail from Bergen County–Shachar Avraham and Scott Wisotsky of Fair Lawn and Avi Hershberg of Englewood, whose proud mom I met at the event after she, too, ran/walked the course. Some organizers knew each other from Ramaz High School, and used that connection to get Ramaz to host the after-party, which Ramaz was thrilled to do. They all got sponsors from their communities and used family connections to get donations.

The organizers explained their motivation on Facebook: “…We decided to organize this event because we wanted to feel and be a part of the triumphant march of the Jewish people through the history of time…This is an opportunity to express our solidarity and connection with our fellow Jews in Israel and to show our unbridled support for their unceasing sacrifices.”

They chose the Lone Soldier Center as their beneficiary because many of them have friends or relatives their age serving in the IDF and felt this would a great way to directly help the soldiers.

Sammy Apple thanked the partipants: “The sum total of the money that this event raised is more than $13,500, but the degree to which we raised awareness and support for The Lone Soldier Center…is incalculable.”

Because of Central Park regulations, this was no ordinary walk/run. No permit needed for groups of 18 or less, so we divided into units of 18 participants at multiple starting points around Central Park, all ending at the Ramaz Middle School on East 85th Street. Each unit was assigned a lone soldier on leave from the IDF and team guides. We were encouraged to schmooze and connect while running/walking and some of us came up with creative team names like “I Run Dome” and “The Zohans.” We spread out all over Central Park in our yellow team T-shirts and raised awareness of our cause, more successfully than we raced.

In addition to my yellow T-shirt, I wore an Israeli flag bandana and a “shluker” on my back–a 3-liter water container in a knapsack with a straw in the front that is a favorite of soldiers. While he was serving on the Gaza border in southern Israel, my son let me know shlukers would make amazing gifts for hot and thirsty soldiers. Mine kept me conveniently hydrated all morning with no need to stop at water fountains or shlep bottles–and getting shlukers to the IDF is my next project.

While I huffed and puffed through the hills and dales of Central Park, shvitzing up a storm, I got lots of looks from passers-by and more than a few thumbs up and “thanks.” It energized me to get the mostly positive feedback, even when I lost my unit, got lost in the park, walked completely around the reservoir and my 5K turned into a 7.3K (I need to alter the number 5 on my T-shirt!). Apparently many groups broke apart due to different pacing of their runs but we eventually all found each other at the Ramaz Middle School for ice cold water, pizza, granola bars, and apples, a raffle with some great prizes, and a place to sit, schmooze, and cool off. Short speeches included one by David Golombeck, a former lone soldier from Pennsylvania who spoke movingly and thanked the crowd, as well as greetings and thanks from some of the organizers and Rabbi Roy Feldman of Kehilath Jeshurun of the Upper East Side, who gave a d’var Torah and words of chizuk.

Get involved. Please visit the website www.lonesoldiercenter.com.

By L’via Weisinger

Leave a Comment

Most Popular Articles